June 29, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Chicago’s Noah spices up rivalry with Cavs


Brian Dulik

The Gazette

CLEVELAND — Leave it to Joakim Noah to spice up a quiet Friday on the Cavaliers front.

The outspoken Chicago Bulls center — infamous for criticizing the city of Cleveland during the 2010 NBA playoffs — shared his thoughts on LeBron James’ return to the Cavaliers.

Speaking with K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune at an event for his Noahs Arc Foundation, Noah set the tone for the next phase of the rekindled rivalry.

“I’m happy for LeBron,” the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year said. “He gets to go home, people are happy over there.

“But I really hope we can kick his (expletive) as many times as possible.”

Chicago and Cleveland will play four times during the upcoming regular season, which begins on Oct. 28. The clubs are expected to battle for first place in the Central Division, along with defending champion Indiana.

The Cavaliers, Bulls, Pacers, Wizards, and Raptors all have legitimate hopes of winning the Eastern Conference title, but the addition of Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love would make one of them a prohibitive favorite.

Cleveland is considered the favorite to trade for Love with a package that includes No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins, but Chicago has offered up-and-coming power forward Taj Gibson as part of its pitch.

The Cavaliers envision Love as part of a “Big Three” with four-time NBA MVP James and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, while the Bulls are envisioning a “Core Four” of Love, Noah, point guard Derrick Rose, and recently signed center Pau Gasol.

“Even when we sucked, I always felt like we had championship aspirations,” Noah said. “But at the end of the day, all I care about is this city and the Chicago Bulls.”

Cleveland and Chicago have squared off in the postseason six times. The Cavaliers’ only series win occurred four years ago when James led them to a 4-1 triumph in the first round.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.